I’ve done a lot of food blogging in recent months, developing new recipes and posting some goodies from my cookbooks as well. Today, I am not posting ANY food pics – but I hope you’ll still stick around, read, and join my discussion (despite not having any visual food appeal)!
I’ve been mothering for 12 years now. I’ve been writing cookbooks even longer, and blogging about 8 years. Through these years, I have been asked many times – both in my personal life and through online acquaintances – “how do you do it? … how do you find the balance?“.
My short reply is often “I’m not sure there is any balance“. We may wax poetic about how us moms can “have it all”, but is that really true? Can we? For me, motherhood and working has always been more of a juggling act than a balancing act. With all the demands of family and work-life, something has to give – eventually a ball is going to drop.
Admittedly, I don’t even experience the challenges of working outside the home. The pressure and stress that must arise from trying to keep on top of chores, errands, your household, kids’ activities, homework, and just simple “time” with children – to talk about daily joys or worries. I can only imagine how trying it must be to keep on top of day-to-day life. Myself, I have perpetual guilt when I’m working… that I’m spending time in front of the computer instead of with my girls. (Time in the kitchen is easier to mentally and emotionally justify – the family reaps the benefits of the cooking and baking). And, if I take much time off to reboot with my family, I feel I am not being very responsive with you, my readers – and that I am falling behind on deadlines and projects.
One day I was on the computer (I have dubbed myself “momputer”), and the girls were stick-handling in the garage with hubby. I heard our middle girl say “mom’s missing out on all the fun because she’s tweeting to the world“.
Truth be told, the idea of dodging pucks in a cold garage is NOT my idea of fun. Yet, I realized in that moment that our girls see me momputing a lot because I don’t have “regular” work hours – I’m catching up when they are engaged and I have a few moments.
As I said, something’s gotta’ give. For me, it’s two areas (1) social and leisure time and (2) household. I rarely go to movies or concerts or events or dinners or even tea with my girlfriends (they are nodding their heads right now). Hubby and I have little time together as a couple too, partly because we are struggling with babysitting right now, and we don’t have that extended family support which is such a blessing when raising children (even for their connectedness with other loving adults). So, I work and mother most of my hours. The trickiest part for me is that working blurs into mothering and mothering back into working – there is little separation between the two. Also, areas of my house are disastrously disorganized! I need that Peter Walsh bloke in here to help me sort out my office, my kitchen pantry, and my PHOTOS! (who else has 164,987 digital photos of their kids to go through? Raise your hand!)
At times it feels like you are not doing anything particularly well! Anyone relate to that? In my heart of hearts, I know that really I AM doing a good job with my work, and more importantly that I AM a pretty good mom (I have my shit days, and even shittier hours). Yet, I think as women, we are often tough on ourselves, because we hold ourselves to high standards and expectations – rooted in our goals for our career and family. As I type this, I have the contract for my next book. I am excited and yet plenty nervous, wondering how I will “do it all”. Things have gotten busier as the girls have grown, and they aren’t slowing down yet!
Recently I’ve had many discussions with girlfriends about this pressure of working and motherhood. Several of my friends have been at home with their kiddos since birth, and now that their youngest children are in kindergarten they are struggling with the decision of going back to work. We have talked about how it’s still so busy even with the kids in school, catching up on household chores and also being part of school volunteering, and more. Then, once the kids are out of school, our days truly just begin! With homework and activities, dinner hour, and bath/bedtime and getting ready for the next day – there is so much to do in those after-school hours. Some of my friends don’t really want to go back to work, but they feel that pressure to do so, that it is expected. Many of them are asked “well, what are you going to DO now?” Huh?! I find that upsetting and unfair, as if there is nothing to do during school hours. And, it is disappointing that our worth is so quickly ‘diminished’ as mothers once our children are in school. Our children still need us, in many ways! Also, many mothers feel the financial pinch to get back to work because our current day of parenting means we have so many expenses associated with our kids’ activities. After being at home for 7-10 years with children, it’s not simple to transition back to the work force. We need more flexibility with hours, our skills sets may need retuning, the field we’ve worked in has moved on “without us”, we may have completely different interests than before (often we do).
While I hardly have all the answers, I have found a few things that work for me. First, I do love my work. It feels meaningful and creative and purposeful. I wouldn’t work as hard as I do if I didn’t have this connection and passion. Second, I respect my burnout. When I have had too much, I break from blogging or social media. I only blog about once a week, because that’s really all I can maintain right now. Third, I respect my sleep. I have always been an early bird – early to bed, early to rise. So, I don’t abuse that. I shut off from momputing by about 8:30pm. Here’s the embarrassing confession: I’m in bed most nights by 9:30. I know, plant-powered partay! Well, I’m often up at 5:30 or 6am, so it’s my rhythm. Sleep is critical for maintaining our serenity as mothers, and I have had periods of torturous insomnia after having children – which could be a whole post on its own. So, I do my best to respect my rhythms and try – try – not to be hard on myself. Fourth, I exercise. I don’t run miles or endure long, exhausting workouts. For my body, just small spurts of daily exercise works best. So, 20-30 minutes a morning of yoga, weight-training, or rebounding (I hope to post about that soon)! Fifth, I feel whole foods help energize and stabilize me through the day. My diet is about 80-85% whole foods. I’m not perfect, I enjoy my treats. I love my chocolate. And there you have my sixth coping mechanism.
There are many things I know I should do more. I know I should meditate, have more “me” time like spa visits (ahhhh!), get out for girls’ nights, and also get away to food and veggie conferences more often. Maybe in time. I’m sure I could fit in even 10 minutes of meditation a day, that might be the best place to start.
As for “finding the balance”, that may forever remain elusive … at least until our children are much older and independent – and by that time I will likely miss the noise and chaos of my current days.
How do you feel? Are you a mother working from home or outside the home? How do YOU do it all? Do you feel you have “balance”? Do you feel a lot of pressure from peers and family and society to “get back to work”? Does that upset you? What are your coping strategies? Please share your thoughts and experiences. I’d really like to hear from you on this, and if you have any links to share – feel free to do so.